Pharmaceutical companies, medical-device manufacturers, hospitals, clinical research facilities, government agencies, and medical publishers hire medical writers to write material for their companies. Some medical writers draft regulatory proposals and submit them to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requesting approval for medical devices or drugs. Others create instructional materials, such as medical-equipment tutorials, fact sheets, training brochures, medicine descriptions, and textbooks for medical students. As a medical writer, you might draft content for marketing purposes or create technical materials to educate medical professionals and consumers.
Strong Writing Skills
Medical writers must have strong writing skills and a firm understanding of medical terms. You might use diagrams, anatomical images, photographs and charts to explain medical content, so proficiency with publishing software is a huge plus. Regulatory writers must understand FDA regulations and follow all steps in the approval process. You must be able to effectively translate medical and scientific material, including biostatistics, so readers fully grasp complex terms, data, and medical processes. Many readers aren't medical experts, so you must relay information in a way that's interesting, insightful, and easy to comprehend. Researching is a required job skill, so familiarity with reputable medical journals and clinical research publications can help you land a job.
Most medical writers have a minimum of a bachelor's degree but some pursue advanced degrees, such as an M.D., a Pharm.D. or a Ph.D. in health care or a scientific field, according to the American Medical Writers Association (AMWA). Some have degrees and previous experience in journalism, communications, English or education and use their expert communication skills to write about medical issues. Some institutions also offer specific degree programs and certifications in medical communication. For example, the AMWA offers workshops and continuing education courses for those who want formal medical writing training.
Medical communicators must ensure that their writing is accurate, trustworthy, and ethical. Fact-checking, consulting with scientists, pharmacists, and medical professionals, and corresponding with medical-journal authors are top job requirements. Your ability to comprehensively discuss medical topics, without bias or partisanship, will help you stand out as a reliable and well-rounded applicant. For example, as a regulatory medical writer, you must present all research information, disclose all laboratory findings and accurately report statistical data on medicines and medical equipment, so the FDA can make decisions on proposals.
Salary and Future Outlook
In 2012, the median annual wage for technical writers was $65,500, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $38,700 and the highest 10 percent earned more than $101,660. According to 2014 data from Glassdoor, the salary range for medical writers was between $44,241 and $93,268 per year. Advanced degrees, years of experience in the field and managerial responsibilities play important roles in determining annual salaries for medical writers. Employment of technical writers is projected to grow 15 percent from 2012 to 2022, faster than the average 11 percent growth rate for all occupations, according to the BLS.
2016 Salary Information for Technical Writers
Technical writers earned a median annual salary of $69,850 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, technical writers earned a 25th percentile salary of $53,990, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $89,730, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 52,400 people were employed in the U.S. as technical writers.